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Jeremy Headshot
The Swim Reaches Hawaii
By: Jeremy Davis, Operations Manager

Over the past several years, Weather Routing has been heavily involved in The Swim, an expedition taken on by Ben Lecomte to swim across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to California, supported by the S/Y Seeker. The goal of The Swim was to promote awareness of the alarming and growing problem of plastic pollution in our oceans. Lecomte planned to swim through portions of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where he and his team would collect samples for future study, documenting the entire process for a series on The Discovery Channel.

From the beginning, WRI provided climatological reports on the feasibility of the project, including details on:
  • Typical tropical cyclone tracks
  • Subtropical ridges of high pressure
  • North Pacific gale tracks
  • And the effects of currents for the best possible route and timing across the Pacific
The Swim began in early June of 2018 after a series of unforeseen scheduling delays, though a typhoon quickly resulted in the Seeker having to return to Japan. A series of additional tropical cyclones delayed their departure a few weeks. Thereafter, Lecomte was able to continue the swim for 110 days, until a progressively active weather pattern prevented a continuation of the Swim. The Seeker then diverted to Hawaii, but along the way, they continued to sample the ocean for plastics.

On December 12, 2018, Lecomte made one last swim for this leg and into Queens Beach, Hawaii, standing on dry land for the first time in six months. Although the attempted record of swimming across the entire Pacific did not come to fruition, this leg of The Swim was a success, and was able to accomplish the following:
  • Longest Pacific Ocean Swim, at over 1500nm
  • 1000 scientific samples of plastic taken
  • 4385 plastic items retrieved for further study
Lecomte plans on continuing The Swim in the spring to complete the leg to California. In summing up his experiences so far, he states that "Not everything turned the way I wanted but we all made it safely back on land and we kept on focusing on our overall mission; collecting data and samples to contribute to the collective knowledge about plastic pollution, raising awareness about the ocean health and inspiring people to make some changes in their life to reduce their plastic use."

Weather Routing was proud to provide assistance to The Swim, and wishes Lecomte the best for the second leg. To view episodes about The Swim, please visit https://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/the-swim/. Weather Routing is featured in Episodes 3 and 4.

Pictured here is Ben Lecomte, retrieving a piece of plastic debris for further analysis during The Swim.


Joseph Headshot
2018: A "Powerful" Tropical Season for the East Pacific
Joseph Desilva, Meteorologist

The East Pacific tropical season officially ended on November 30th, and can be summarized not just as a very active season, but also the most "powerful" East Pacific tropical season on record. There were 23 named storms within a span of 5 months, with the first system, Hurricane Aletta, forming on June 06th and the final system, Tropical Storm Xavier, dissipating on November 05th. Of the 23 named storms, 13 (50%) became Hurricanes, but perhaps the most impressive fact is that 10 of these were Major Hurricanes all of which were Category 4 or higher. This was the 4th most active East Pacific tropical season in terms of number of named systems, but was the most powerful on record based on the Total Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE).

What is Total Accumulated Cyclone Energy? Accumulated Cyclone Energy (or "ACE" index) is a measure of the strength and duration of each tropical system that develops in a specific basin each year. It utilizes the 6 hourly 1-minute maximum sustained wind speed to approximate energy used by a tropical system over its lifetime. The total ACE of a season is then determined using a statistical relationship between the sum of the ACE's for all tropical systems that reach minimum storm strength. This index is often utilized by government resources for safety awareness and in research to advance long range forecasting techniques. Since the ACE index reflects a combination of storm intensity and duration, it is considered a better barometer of overall activity and likely damage than utilizing solely the raw number of tropical systems.

A season's total ACE is classified into one of three groups: Above-Normal, Near-Normal, and Below-Normal. The average ACE of a season is 115, Above Normal is 135 or greater, and Below Normal is 86 or less. The total ACE for 2018 in the East Pacific was calculated to be 316.3, which is over 2.5 times above average and classified to be the most powerful tropical season on record! (see Figure 1).

Image from Dolphin website showing how to access the new long range port forecast.

The contributing factors to this record 2018 season were the prevalence of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures from Mexico to the International Dateline, and favorable atmospheric dynamics. The warmer sea surface temperatures can be partially owed to a multi-decade cycle that has persisted since 2014. As depicted in Figure 2, the main core of warm sea surface temperature anomalies over the East Pacific in late August was the area from offshore of Panama westward to south of the Mexican Riviera and Baja Peninsula. This is also the main formation zone for tropical waves. In the 4 weeks following this warm up, 5 of the season's major hurricanes formed.

Additionally, the favorable atmospheric dynamics came in the form of large-scale upward motion. This large-scale upward motion results in lower (favorable) wind shear, which is a key ingredient to consistent and long-term tropical development. Although the ocean metrics didn't exhibit an El NiƱo condition (which favors warmer waters over the East Pacific) and the government didn't officially declare one, the atmosphere was behaving as if there was one. The official indices from this past summer indicated a neutral condition trending in the direction of a developing El Niño.

Figure 2 depicts warm than normal sea surface temperatures in the East/Central Pacific in Late August 2018. (NOAA/NCEP)

Advisories and forecast charts for all active tropical systems are available on our Dolphin website at WRIDolphin.com. Although the East Pacific tropical season has ended, tropics are currently active across the Southwest Pacific and West Pacific. WRI will of course issue advisories for the East Pacific if a system were to develop out of season. As always, our team's expertise is available 24/7/365 by phone or email, to ensure the utmost safety for our clients.
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